Dr. John Thomas "Tom" Prud'homme, journeyed peacefully from this life to the next on November 6, 2019 in Austin, Texas, surrounded by his loving family.
Tom's mischievous, adventurous, and big-hearted spirit blossomed during his childhood in the piney woods of East Texas, where he raised his own prize bull calf named "Lep," engaged his younger brothers in various, and somewhat questionable, work-for-brownie-point schemes, and pulled elaborate and creative pranks on his older siblings.
Tom graduated from Pineland High School in 1947. From there, he went on to Spring Hill College, graduating in physics in 1951. While at Spring Hill he served as sports editor for the Torch yearbook, was a member of the drama club and the Sanctuary Society. He received his MA in physics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1953. His thesis was entitled, "Angular and Energy Distribution of 2.77 Mev. Neutrons Scattered from Natural Lead." His PhD in nuclear physics from UT in 1957 was entitled, " Inelastic Scattering of Neutrons from Copper." Tom then joined with his graduate advisor and friend, Dr. Emmett Hudspeth, and Norman Bostrum, to found Texas Nuclear Corporation, one of Austin's first tech start-ups. Others with UT connections that were part of the early company were Norman Bostrum, Lon Morgan, Thomas D. Anderson and Robert N. Little. In 1974, he was appointed president of Texas Nuclear and continued in that role for many years. Texas Nuclear was a manufacturer and marketer of high technology measurement, detection and processing equipment for industrial uses. It became a subsidiary of G. D. Searle & Co of Chicago. In 1962, Tom wrote a book entitled Texas Nuclear Corporation Neutron Generators.
Some examples of early publication by the Texas Nuclear Group are listed below:
INELASTIC SCATTERING OF FAST NEUTRONS FROM NITROGEN AND OXYGEN. Period covered : August 31, 1956 to February 28, 1958, Norman. A. Bostrom, Ira. L. Morgan, John Thomas Prud'homme and Rafal Sattar. An investigation of the inelastic scattering of neutrons from oxygen and nitrogen was made in order to determine inelastic neutron cross sections and gamma-ray production cross sections.
THE ELASTIC SCATTERING OF FAST NEUTRONS FROM OXYGEN AND NITROGEN. Period covered July 1, 1956 to July 31, 1957 Norman. A. Bostrom, Ira. L. Morgan, John Thomas Prud'homme and Rafal Sattar. The differential elastic scattering of fast neutrons from O2 and N2 was measured as a function of neutron energy and scattering angle in the energy range from 3.0 to l6 Mev using a ring-type geometry.
NEUTRON INTERACTIONS IN Fe, Pb, AND Ni, Norman. A. Bostrom, Ira. L. Morgan, John Thomas Prud'homme and P. L. Okhuysen. A study of the interaction of fast neutrons in iron and lead has led to an investigation of the energy distribution of inelastically scattered neutrons, gamma ray production cross sections due to inelastic neutron scattering, the angular distribution of intense gamma rays due to inelastic neutron scattering, and the production of high energy gamma rays due to neutron capture.
Early on, in his time at Texas Nuclear, Tom met a young teacher who would become his wife and life-long soulmate. He married Shirley Ruth Bassett on February 24, 1962, St. Ignatius Church in Austin, Texas. Shirley was a graduate of Baylor University. She also attended The University of Texas majoring in home economics. She taught at McCallum High School in Austin.
While at Texas Nuclear, Tom was very active in community affairs. He was very supportive of science in the public schools in Austin and various charitable organization.
He left Texas Nuclear to become a Vice President at Baker-Hughes Corporation, and after retiring from Baker-Hughes, went on to participate in establishing two more local technology companies: Process Sciences Incorporated and Austin American Technology. Throughout his long and productive career, Tom never lost his love of science and never tired of trying to find ways to use science to make the world a better place.
Tom loved fishing and hunting, playing golf, racquetball, and tennis, and going on frequent cruises, trips, and tours with his wife, Shirley. He is a founding member of the EIEIO club, an informal gathering of local businessmen who met irregularly for purposes not entirely clear, even to themselves. But more than anything, he enjoyed creating mischief. He loved nothing better than putting his children up to doing things that would get them in trouble with their mother and enthusiastically carried this hobby forward into the next generation with his grandchildren.
Tom had a unique ability to relate to everyone, to take delight in everyone exactly as they were, to find the best in everyone, and to acknowledge and celebrate what made people unique. He was not just the smartest person you ever met. He was also the sweetest, kindest, and most generous.
Tom is preceded in death by his parents, Eck and Mary, his brother Eck Prud'homme, Jr., and his sister Eleanor Breen. He is survived by his wife, Shirley, his brothers Joseph Gilbert Prud'homme and wife, Connie, and Joseph Lynn Prud'homme, his sister-in-law, Margaret Prud'homme, his children John T. Prud'homme, Jr. and wife, Kirsten, Patricia Alyce Wendlandt and husband, Clark, Rebecca Ruth McDowell and husband, David, Michael Eck Prud'homme, and Philip Walton Prud'homme, and wife, Michelle Stahl, his grandchildren, Caitlin, Rachel, and Jack Prud'homme, Emily Wersig and husband, Michael, Katie Rios and husband, Randy, Michael, Kyle, and Philip McDowell, Sam and Meredith Prud'homme, and Jordie Stahl.
The family would like to especially thank the staff and nurses at Brookdale Spicewood Springs for their many hours of loving and patient care. Visitation will be Friday evening at 5:30, November 8, 2019 at Cook Walden Funeral Home, 6100 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78752 with a Rosary at 7:00 PM. A funeral Mass will be held Saturday, November 9, 2019 at St. Teresa's Catholic Church, 4311 Small Drive, Austin, TX 78731. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Caritas of Austin, caritasofaustin.org.
This writeup is based on an obituary that appeared in the American Statesman, Austin, Texas, November 8, 2019 with additional material by Mel Oakes.
John Thomas Prud'homme Photo and Document Album